We have templates that we superimpose on Chicago and places like it. These templates distort the ways violence comes to bear on individual lives, obscure the patterns that come with that violence, and shape the ways we think about ameliorating it. These are each human-scale tragedies worthy of human-scale consideration. To really understand what happened in Chicago last weekend, we have to be able both to see those shootings as mass shootings, and to see the lives they shatter.
When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. “This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar,” she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. ‘My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’
It was a moment that changed my life. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I had been taught about the past. How often had I overlooked women’s contributions?